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"Not good for cities": New bill to expand state government influence

City leaders in Central Texas react to a measure from Texas legislators that limits local government's power
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Posted at 5:48 PM, May 29, 2023

House Bill 2127 is about to be signed into law and when it is, it will essentially expand the influence of state government. That means city governments like here in Waco would be limited in what they can do in their own cities.

Ashley Nystrom is the City Manager's Chief of Staff for the City of Waco. For the last few weeks, she's been following HB 2127's journey to Governor Greg Abbott's desk.

"I think there's going to be a lot of unintended negative consequences in cities across the state," she told 25 News. "It's just really broadly written, not good for cities in general."

Nystrom said the lack of clarity in the way the bill is written can impact more than she believes state leader meant to.

"It calls into question a lot of different types of ordinances," she said. "We have payday lending ordinances or game room legislation that we got the authority from the state in previous years to even have those ordinances and this pulls that back. There's another question if cities will even be able to regulate high grass or weeds nuisance type ordinances."

The bill authored by Representative Dustin Burrows says local regulations lead to "inconsistency across the state" and this law will "provide statewide consistency by returning sovereign regulatory powers to the state."

As state law makers seek consistency, local leaders say this is not going to benefit their cities.

"Texas is so big and we have such a diversity in our cities," Temple City Manager Brynn Myers said. "What Temple needs is different what Texarkana needs is different from what maybe Dallas wants to see or needs in their community."

The bill states local governments "may not adopt, enforce, or maintain an ordinance, order or rule" outside the law.

Myers said she's not sure what that means.

"If there was more clarity in the bill, we would be able to reduce the number of lawsuits we're expecting to come just because we don't know what's in, what's out, what's allowed and what's not allowed," she said. "It's just going to get tied up in the court system which will be expensive for all of us."

Both the cities of Temple and Waco reached out to state representatives seeking clarity but say not a lot was changed and they're still very much in the dark.

"Be more specific about things you don't want cities to regulate," Myers said. "What we're worried about is because it's so vague, there's an unknown number of impact it could have to the city."

With the needs of Texans varying from city to city, there's concern over whose needs will actually be met once this bill is signed into law.

"Local officials have the best interest of their residents at heart and this bill preempts the city from taking action on a lot of what we hear from the residents locally," Nystrom said. "Ultimately it will make it so they have to work through the state on issues they care about."

"It really effects the city of Temple and other cities ability to do local governance and allow our own residents to control what kind of ordinances and laws and rule our residents want in place for the city of Temple," Myers said.

25 News reached out to Representative Burrows who authored this bill and Senator Brandon Creighton who worked on it in the senate. Neither were available for comment.